Interview with the Engineers trying to Avoid Mass Extinction

Introducing amee

There’s a tech company out there that is trying to save life on Earth. amee’s mission is to track and map environmental data for every business in the world and create a platform for organisations of all sizes to assess, report and compare their own environmental performance with their peers. The team is full of PhDs (20%!), engineers, developers and communicators.

Tim Murphy, amee CEO: “The market needs something different. We’re creating the equivalent of a credit score. The accuracy of these numbers may be low to begin with but credit scores were low too... We want to shift the conversation away from the CSR people – who have little influence and little budget – and into the office of the CFO. It’s a financial issue.”

You will find more than 2.8m organisations’ environmental profiles published on the amee website, each categorised into ‘carbon footprint’, ‘water’ and ‘waste’, based on the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Each organisation is compared with its competitors and given an amee rating. At the time of writing (May 2013) the website is in its Beta stage so is incomplete, but more data is being added every day.


Q: What does amee stand for?

A: The acronym stands for Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine and dates back to 2007 when amee was a software project founded by Gavin Starks. amee was originally used by a number of clients, including DEFRA, as a type of carbon calculator. Details here:

Although our focus and business model has changed since then, the essence of amee – providing open and transparent environmental data – remains the same.

Above: The amee homepage.

Q: Describe the amee vision:

A: Our mission is to provide credible environmental data on every business and organisation in the world, such as carbon emissions, water and waste. We believe that all this data should be transparent and freely accessible.

In the future it’s not inconceivable that environmental scores will become as commonplace as credit scores are today. The environment is not a niche area or an abstract concept but is at the core of the entire economy.

We believe that providing open access to environmental data will have a number of positive impacts for our society:

1. Encourage businesses to improve their own environmental record and report sustainability more thoroughly.

For example, the Government’s CRC programme has demonstrated that making environmental data publicly available drives efficiency improvements in the majority of the UK’s largest businesses. We are trying to provide such insight on all businesses.

2. Help inform consumers about the relative environmental performance of the companies and organisations that we all rely on.

There is very little credible data in the public domain and this limits our ability to make informed choices about the companies that we use.

3. Help make the world’s complex supply chains more sustainable.

Whilst some the largest and most forward-thinking businesses are making good efforts at improving their own sustainability track record, not enough are engaging with their suppliers to obtain information about their environmental performance.

However, increasing volatility in weather and commodities means that many businesses are exposed to environmental risk via their suppliers. Therefore having a sustainable supply chain management is not just important for corporate image but also minimises risk from volatile costs of energy, water and waste disposal.

Q: What does amee offer and how did it do this?

A: Not only has amee gathered several hundred thousand publicly available data points on carbon emissions, it has also partnered with leading data companies to obtain key business data, including utility spend.

This has enabled amee to develop an advanced statistical model to accurately estimate an organisation’s carbon footprint where publicly reported data is either missing and/or incomplete.

Therefore amee is the only company to provide complete coverage of environmental data in the UK.

Every business and organisation has been given a unique profile with details of their environmental performance. Companies are also given an ameeScore, a unique number from 1-100 which indicates an organisation’s environmental efficiency compared to its industry peers.

Above: How a company's carbon profile appears on the amee website.

Companies are then encouraged to update their profiles with actual data. By doing this they demonstrate their commitment to transparency and sustainability – attributes which are increasingly valued by large supply chain owners. They can also compare their performance with similar organisations and form partnerships to drive their own efficiency improvements.

Large organisations can use amee’s online platform as an intermediary to engage suppliers and demonstrate a clear commitment to lower carbon, sustainable procurement.

Q: Who uses amee?

A: Our open portal providing environmental data can be used by anyone. If you type in the name of a company you can find its environmental performance. Individual profiles will become more complete as we get more data.

Q: Is amee for gentle chiding, or is it for more forceful energy shaming?

A: amee is not about shaming companies with a poor environmental record, rather promoting transparent environmental data and best practice. We have tried to make our scoring system fair, for example ranking companies according to industry sector and aggregating various sources of data for our emissions modelling.

Q: Does amee make money?

A: Yes, amee works with a number of large organisations, for example the Government Procurement Service, to provide analytics on their supply chains. Our data analysts can help these large organisations identify risk, for example high reliance on a supplier which is both very energy inefficient and in poor financial health.

Q: What's the team like?

A: We’re a small (but expanding) team of around 20, the majority of which is based in our office at the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in Old Street, London. Most of the team are technical developers and data analysts. We have a number of backgrounds, ranging from technology start-ups to large data companies.

Q: What else should people know?

A: We have a number of high profile investors, including O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures and Union Square Ventures

Assimilating large data sets is a complex undertaking. amee only launched its site in March 2013 (we are still in beta) and we are currently working at making our data more complete and accurate.

Thank you to Laurence for giving us time for this interview. More on amee here

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